1994 BMW 525i

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote up a 1995 530i. I noted that despite classically handsome styling and a spot-on chassis, the E34 5-series has remained curiously under appreciated, with the exception perhaps of the M5 variant.  At the time, I admitted that the particular example I posted (an automatic with the relatively underpowered 3.0 V8) wasn’t exactly the best of the range. This 525i probably offers a better all round package than the 530i, and is more likely to be attractive to those looking for a cheap but dynamic daily driver. While it’s not in quite the same condition as that other car, this one arguably has a better engine and comes in a better color, with a more competitive asking price. It also features that all important third pedal.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 525i on eBay

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2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant

Volkswagen is really great at theory, but not so much at execution. They’ve had a long line of really strange marketing decisions which have at times left the company in dire straights. One wonders how Volkswagen will emerge in the wake of the recent diesel scandal, for example, though many other manufacturers like Mitsubishi (you forgot they still made cars, didn’t you? Me too.) are doing their best to usurp VW’s crown as a manufacturing pariah. Yet, Volkswagen has so many debacles it has run its customers through that it should be amazing they come back for more at all. In the early 1990s, they mis-rated the timing belt service intervals on the early V8 quattros. The result was, predictably, a bunch of engine replacements. The 1.8T became notorious for turbo sludge problems, too – rectified with larger filters and synthetic-only oil, but a fair number (including my Passat) had factory turbo replacement. The 3.0 V6? A timebomb of metal shards working their way from the passenger rear of the motor through the engine, thanks to what appears to be an oil starvation design flaw. The 2.7Ts, 4.2s and all of the FSi motors? Known issues, sometimes very large and expensive. Coil packs, unnecessarily complicated PSV systems, transmissions made of glass and clogging sunroof channels? All the norm in your VAG experience. But Volkswagen really outdid themselves by making a complicated system even more complicated when they introduced the 4.0 W8 into the Passat. Sure, it was a test bed for later W12 models, and viewed in that light it makes some sense. But then, the Passat shown here is much more rare than the Bentleys and even some of the A8 W12 models that derived experience from the B5.5. Volkswagen could simply have taken any one of their proven engines and provided the answer to whatever question they were posing when they conceived this vehicle. Instead, they did things differently. That’s both something to celebrate and something to point out as an inherent character flaw:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 4Motion Variant on eBay

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1997 BMW M3/4/5

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The E36 M3 Sedan holds a very special place in my heart and played a large part in turning my attention away from Audis and VWs towards BMW M-cars. Colloquially known as the M3/4/5, one car specifically turned the tide: an Estoril Blue M3 with 4-doors, 5-speeds, and some Dinan bits that was the fastest car I’d driven up to that point. It was smooth, connected, and aggressive, packed in a beautiful sedan that is subtle enough to blend in but aggressive enough to put plenty of distance between it and the base-model E36. I had a chance to buy that car a few years back with 47k miles for $14k but I didn’t have the money. A few years on, this red on black example with similar miles is asking almost $11k more. The red/black isn’t quite as sexy as the Estoril/Caramel combo, but the M Double Spoke II wheels are personal favorites. Despite (or because of?) high production numbers, most E36 M3s have been run hard and disrespected. This one looks to be in great shape but not perfect. Are low-mile E36 M3s chasing the E30s, or is this seller hitting the pipe?

Click for details: 1997 BMW M3 on eBay

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1991 BMW 325i

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After the super, extremely, silly low mileage of the gold 325i I posted the other day, we now have a high-mileage black example, this time with the orders of magnitude-better 5-speed manual, that looks perfectly maintained. If you want a blank-slate E30 to perhaps eventually make your own choices on, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better middle ground than this. Nothing’s out of place or modified other than a couple minor 325is upgrades. The perfect daily driver, your first E30, and/or a car to gradually improve and modernize, this looks to be the Goldilocks of the breed.

Click for details: 1991 BMW 325i on eBay

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Horned Mythological Beast? 2008 BMW 535xi Touring 6-speed

There are a lot of often used and consequently misused terms in the automotive world. Recently, I saw a post asking what the most annoying or inappropriate car name was and the comments slowly devolved into just hating on certain types of cars rather than poorly named cars. A bad car is the PT Cruiser, and while the name “PT Cruiser” is odd, it’s not as off-putting to me as some other names – like, for example, the Japanese adding of “a” to the end of a normal word to make a car name. Yesterday I was behind a Suzuki Forenza – theoretically, named for Firenza (itself misspelled, since it should really be Firenze), the Italian name of Florence. Having been to Florence, I can find nothing in common with that city and the car. Nor can I find anything in common with the wonderful Italian Renaissance city and the Daewoo Lacetti which the Suzuki is based upon. Of course, there is a real city of Forenza, but since it’s a random obscure place in the center of relatively poor Southern Italy, I doubt that the geniuses at Suzuki felt it would be poignant to name a car after it. Of course, then again – it’s a cheap and obscure car – so perhaps they’re more clever than I give them credit for. But, I digress.

Where was I going? Oh, that’s right. Unicorns. The term “Unicorn” is one that I run across nearly every day in my daily car searches. Now, by itself that would negate the whole idea of the unicorn, right? I mean they’re supposed to be rare, but if everyone has them then they’re not very rare, are they? Okay, so the frequency with which I seem to find self-described unicorns is off. Perhaps they’re Narwhals? That might be more appropriate, since I also never see hooves, they’re infrequently white, and their blood doesn’t keep others alive – nor is it silver. Did I mention they’re also not immortal? Then there is the issue of who is able to capture them. Now, while wizards are theoretically able to use their magic wands to put unicorns under a trance, folklore would tell us that really it’s only virgins who can subdue a unicorn. Beyond that, though, there’s a much larger issue with the descriptor:

“So, what’s the issue with Unicorns?”
“Imagine a cat,” Rose said. “Not just a cat, but a cat that is such a cat, other cats come to it for cat lessons. Take a thousand cats, refine them down to a single drop of pure essence of cat, and make a whole cat out of the stuff.”
I shivered. “Ewww. And that’s a Unicorn?”
“No,” she said. “That’s an Elf. A Unicorn is a thousand times worse. An Elf you can reason with.”
Bryan Fields, Life With a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 BMW 535xi Touring on eBay

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1988 BMW 325ix

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We don’t see much of the 325ix around here (though Carter’s recent 325ix touring was a special treat), as they seem to have mostly died undignified deaths in Colorado and the northeast. This Vermonter has somehow survived without too much damage, not even showing any of the usual rust that appears around the M-Tech II bodykit. It’s covered the better part of 200k miles and has a few flaws (note to the seller: saying that “the car need a power sterring holes fot the power streeing to work again, and the paking brake is not woking now” four lines after “a lot money spent to keep it in top running condition” does not inspire trust. However, this is a rare 5-speed coupe E30 with all wheel drive, so it still warrants a close look.

Click for details: 1988 BMW 325ix on eBay

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1986 Mercedes Benz 300E

It seems like just yesterday I was handing over the keys to my Audi S4 Avant to a happy buyer, thus setting me off on my journey to find my next vehicle. In reality, yesterday was actually late April. Here we are in the dog days of summer and I’ve yet to pull the trigger on a new ride, but not for lack of trying. I’ve driven a number of cars over the past couple of months, some new, some used, and I still have yet to feel that magic connection that I’m looking for. I’ve crossed cars off my list that I’ve long lusted after, E46 BMW M3/E36 M3, and some that I wasn’t a fan of until recently, 540i/6, E30 325i. Though I was rather dead set on getting my first BMW, I’ve been seriously considering a Mercedes lately. On the upside they’re more affordable in this current market, on the downside it’s really hard to find a desirable model with a manual transmission. So, when I came across this 1986 300E with a 5 speed manual the other day, I was immediately intrigued. When I saw that it was just 45 minutes away from me, I picked up the phone and got in touch with the seller. He told me that he had a buyer coming to check it out but if the sale fell through he would let me know. It was a long shot, but wouldn’t you know it, the car remained available and I went to check it out yesterday.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes Benz 300E on Craigslist

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1988 BMW M5

It’s been awhile since I’ve given any consideration to the E28 BMW M5. Not because they’re aren’t super cool either, they most definitely are, and will be fore the foreseeable future. For that reason I’ve been passing over M5 listings frequently, they’re too in style at the moment. The bubble in which they currently sit isn’t as bad as the 911 or the M3, but I think it’s fair to say that the M5 is over valued. People are snatching these things up left and right, adding them to their collections, and waiting for them reach retirement fund status. That’s a shame because not only does it screw with the market, it means these cars likely aren’t being driven as intended. That was most likely not the case with this example given that it has 190k on the clock. Whereas a potential buyer would hope that the majority of those miles were from easy highway driving, I hope they were were accrued on winding back roads.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M5 on eBay

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2009 BMW 328i X-Drive Touring M-Sport 6-Speed

If you asked a random person on the street which was more rare, an E91 wagon with a manual transmission or an Audi R8, I guarantee you that the majority of folks would say the R8. They would of course be wrong because an average of 1,500 wagons came to the U.S. annually with a estimated maximum of 5% being manuals. That lumps this example in with rare gated manuals like Ferrari F430s or Aston Martins. Of course most people look at this car and just see another AWD wagon suited for life in a mountain town. In my opinion, that is a big part of the appeal and though it’s not nearly as powerful as an Audi S4, I think these M-Sport package cars are equally as special. I have yet to get a chance to drive on with a manual but I know how well they handle and as someone who owned a B7 S4 Avant, I have to say the BMW was more enjoyable for spirited driving. Sure, you don’t get the V8 wail like you do with the S4 or an AMG wagon but the venerable 3.0L I-6 can sing a pleasing song with the right upgrades, particularly an M-Sport exhaust and headers.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2009 BMW 328i X-Drive Touring on Craigslist

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2004 BMW 330i ZHP

It’s always a happy occasion when I come across a ZHP that has been well loved and remains unmolested. In fact I think these cars are more likely to have been left in their original state than an M3 simply because the folks that tended to opt for the ZHP were more “grown up”. All I mean by that is while the E36 3 series was in production there was no four door M3 option so if you were a family man who wanted a go fast BMW, this was your car.

The ZHP only got a 10hp increase over the regular 330i but reprogrammed engine management and a close ratio six speed manual made it feel quite zippy. It’s stiffer and slightly lower too but from what I’ve read the ride quality didn’t suffer and that’s a big plus. I’ve driven a couple of E46 M3s and while they’re fantastic for spirited driving, I don’t cruising around in them on city streets. In this era before adaptive suspension setups you had to decide whether you wanted a performance car that was tolerable in day to day life or a sporty car that was OK when you wanted to get after it a bit. The older I get the more I find myself thinking the latter is the right way to go and I think the 330i ZHP is a near perfect choice for the driver who might go to the track a few times a year but mostly enjoys a spirited canyon run.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 BMW 330i ZHP on Pelican Parts

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